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February 12: Ehud Barak

Lawrence Bush
February 12, 2017
Ehud Barak, Israel’s 10th prime minister (1999-2001) and most highly decorated combat soldier in Israeli history, was born on Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon on this date in 1942. He was trained in physics, mathematics, and engineering at Hebrew University and Stanford. Barak joined Israel’s armed forces in 1959 and served for thirty-five years, rising to the highest rank and participating in several historic military operations, including the 1976 Entebbe Raid that freed Israeli hostages in Uganda. As Chief of the General Staff between 1991 and 1995, he implemented the first Oslo Accords and helped negotiate the Israel–Jordan peace treaty. As prime minister, he endorsed two states and participated with Yasser Arafat in the Camp David Summit convened by U.S. President Bill Clinton, but failed to come to an agreement with the PLO despite his willingness to compromise on issues of territory and the inviolability of Jewish control over Jerusalem. Barak was defeated by Ariel Sharon in the next election, and had to wait until 2006 to regain leadership of the Labor Party. He served as Minister of Defense under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2007 and led Operation Cast Lead, the war on Hamas that devastated Gaza at the end of 2008. Barak remains a cautious advocate of the two-state solution. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel,” he said in 2010, “it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” “If I were a Palestinian of the right age, I’d eventually join one of the terrorist organizations.” --Ehud Barack

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.